Sister Hands

Most of us know the benefits of belonging to one or more industry related communities, whether it is through SALI, message forums, or other online galleries or informative websites. We have all spent countless hours searching the web to gather information and find camaraderie in what can be a very lonely business. Most of us fly solo in this industry, meaning you are the sales, administration, business, creative, and heavy laborer of your business….a one man show so to speak. That's a lot of hats for one person to wear, and sometimes we wear them all at once! At the end of the day, this makes for a very tired artist. If not for the camaraderie and support from others who truly know what a day in the life is like we might all hang up our brushes and trowels forever. We grow and learn from each other and many have formed "faux families" through these wonderful and necessary venues.

With the benefits and power of networking in mind, in 2006 nine finishers from across the United States and one abroad decided to take the power of networking a little further. I am one of 10 founding members of Sisters Hands Decorative Artists Consortium which was formed after several in the group met in class. One of our members from Louisiana, Marti Carroll, contacted a few seasoned finishers and asked them what they thought about forming a networking group of talented finishers from across the country. All agreed that the union would benefit everyone so a few ground rules were laid, like no two members within a demographic region, and soon through mutual relationships of the first few, several other highly respected finishers were invited, and our group was formed.

Our initial intention was to form a private message board where we could share, commiserate and have co-workers; but we quickly found a dynamic that we didn't anticipate, realizing that we now had the power to tackle large projects with an unprecedented confidence. Within our group we have what has now become a perfect recipe for personal success as well as success as a group. We've learned how we each deal with different situations, like pricing, scheduling, solving conflicts, as well as how to juggle it all as women and mothers. We are not alone….maybe on the wall at times, but help is just a phone call away. We support each other on a daily basis as well as bring each other in on the jobsite, traveling to other states when a certain level of skill is necessary. There is not a job that we cannot handle or a situation that we can't resolve quickly.

Once a year we get together at one of our studios where we spend an intense week together. Here we discuss business issues and work intense hours on samples, reviewing new products, developing new finishes as well as cross training each other in our personal custom finishes. We realized early on that the very things that brought us together built the foundation of a group with individual strengths and talents, each one having a unique and special place. We have educators in finishes, furniture and business. As well as strength in organizing, writing, and those who offer comfort and support the group emotionally.

Here is something to take into serious consideration – take this concept to the local level. Our members network with other finishers at their local level, teaming up to handle larger jobs, having a dependable extra set of hands and help when needed, having a backup material source when you run short, and even referring work to each other. I have found from talking to other artists that many fall short when it comes to local networking. For some it remains a secretive business, and we are always wondering how the other finishers do it, or if we are pricing right for our area. It can cause a lot of stress and leave you feeling insecure about your market and business. Experiencing it first hand and seeing the success of the members within our group who network locally with others in the industry, we know this the best way to help your business prosper (as well as keep your sanity)! If you loose the competitiveness and stop being afraid to share, you will flourish in your business as well as personally. It's kind of like "Faux Karma". I'm not saying to go out and share your recipes, or those finishes that you have learned from spending thousands on classes. There is so much more to local networking and sometimes feeling that you have to keep everything you know a "secret" will keep you from growing in business as well as personally.

If you do not have any relationships with finishers in your area consider trying the following things. Call one of them up and go to lunch! Yes, that may be a bit intimidating, but believe me, you will be pleasantly surprised. In most cases, they have the same stories you do; you live in the same area! Find finishers that have the same work ethics, goals and skill level that you do. There is always someone close enough to assist you on jobs. Be business smart and send each other a copy of your liability insurance. Having someone to call when you run short by a quart or need help to get a job done... is priceless. Share your experiences with each other, learn what has worked for them, and share what has worked and not worked for you. It will help keep you on top of your game, and also hold you somewhat accountable. Of course, you have to be business smart and find the right people, and that can take some time. Not everyone you meet will be a perfect fit, but keep looking and pursue those relationships! What you give will come back to you!

Consider finding your local SALI chapter and go to a meeting if this is something you have never done. Our California member, Julie Young, has been the President of her local SALI chapter, "Artisans by the Sea" for 2 years. Julie says it is the best way to network locally and get the help you need on the job site. If you don't have a local chapter, gather those friends up that you are going to start networking with and contact SALI to start your own chapter! There is also an online SALI chapter, which I also belong to-

The Power of 10

As a group, Sisters Hands wants to extend what we have as a group by sharing with our faux community. This is a way for us to "give back" so to speak….

We currently have a new website being developed that will be up and running this summer. There will be great articles and surprises for finishers. We will have a question and answer area, a recipe area, and much more! We will also be launching our Newsletter in the Fall that will be written with the professional finisher in mind. Here you will find great tips and advice, answers to your questions, product review, class schedules, free recipes and just fun stories to keep you in touch with the industry and related experiences. Subscription is free! Sign up here now and don't miss a single Newsletter- This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

In closing, consider local networking as well as keeping up with the industry through online communities. What you give in life will most certainly come back to you. It is amazing how good you feel when you lend a hand or offer advice. Now go start making those relationships, you never know- you may find a friend for life!

Elaine Castronovo

Creative Lane

Sisters Hands Decorative Artists Consortium

A list of our members along with links to their individual websites-

Susan Bickford our member from Nashville, TN is the owner of Singing Walls, established in 1999. Susan has been painting and finishing since the mid 70's. With a background in fine arts as well as economics and finance, she is currently teaching the "The Art of Making a Profit – Taking the Guesswork out of Pricing" at The Faux Finish School in Louisville, Kentucky. Susan developed a specialized estimating and job costing Excel template that is specifically designed for the decorative finisher and artist. The "Client Workbook" template makes estimating and pricing simple and efficient. Susan is also offering two classes at this year's SALI conference in Charleston, SC, focusing on pricing and estimating. Visit Susan's website at

Marti Carroll is our member from Baton Rouge, LA and owner of Fauxscapes. Marti began her career with her first commission in 1992. She has been an educator as well as a distributor and specializes in custom finish work as well as furniture and cabinetry finishes. Marti has been commissioned for projects as far away as Ocho Rios, Jamaica. She is currently involved with an all green project through Louisiana State University, which you can visit at Marti recently invited Renee, our Arkansas member, to join in with her on several large commercial projects for the 412,000 sq. ft. Fountain Park Centre, located in the subburbs of New Orleans. To find out a little about Marti, you can go to her website at .

Elaine Castronovo is our member from Pittsburgh, PA. She began her career with a degree in Commercial Art working in Graphic Design and Print, later studying under many master artisans and moving on to her Decorative Painting business, Creative Lane, in 2003. She has been in business for 6 years and specializes in developing custom finishes for walls and ceilings using unique texture and plaster applications. Visit her website for more information

Cindy Everett is our member from Olive Branch, MS and owner of Designer Finishes Studio since 1999. Cindy was in her mid 20's when she started re-vamping old garage sale furniture finds. She has combined her love of painted furniture with a successful career as a faux finish artist, decorator, entrepreneur and teacher specializing in furniture finishing and kitchen cabinet remodeling. She teaches the "European Designer Cabinetry and Furniture Finishes Workshop" at The Faux Finish School in Louisville, KY. Please visit her at

Renee Holder, our member from Little Rock, AR is the owner of Artistry in Faux. Specializing in mixed mediums and textured finishes, she is a licensed Wood Icing instructor. Renee is our most seasoned traveler of the group. Renee commutes to several states to work on various members of Sisters Hands projects when her schedule allows. She has worked in KY, FL and LA, and is currently working with our Louisiana member assisting on large scale projects. To learn more about Renee visit her website at

Judy Norman is our member from Atlanta, GA. She formed Decorative Illusions, Inc. by Georgia Faux in 2002 and traveled extensively to study under master artisans from across the country. Judy specializes in custom decorative finishes for all surfaces. As an adjunct to her portfolio, Judy offers custom dimensional art on canvas using decorative art materials. Please visit for more information.

Patty Henning is our member from Suburban Detroit,MI and owner of Fabulous Finishes. With a start in business management she changed her course and pursued her creative passion 5 years ago, training professionally under various master artisans. She focuses on staying current with the newest proprietary products and techniques, in order to offer a fresh portfolio to her clients. Her work and more information can be found at

Krista Vind, our member from Destin, Florida is the owner of Ufauxrea. She is a licensed Faux Effects instructor and currently teaching the RS-Reactive Series class and Contemporary Finishes course at the Faux Finish School in Louisville, KY. She is also currently developing a future RS Crete class to be launched late this year. In an exciting venture in networking she will also be teaming up with Jennifer Ferguson of Artistic Painting Studio in Fresno,California, together they have developed a class that will be offered at the SALI convention in Charleston, SC, focusing on contemporary finishes in mixed mediums. To learn more about Krista visit her website at

Cait Whitson, our member from Scotland is the owner of Carte Blanche Decorative Painters (est. 1987). Cait specializes in marbling and graining and holds ongoing classes at her studio in Perthshire. She will be teaching her European Master Marble and Woodgraining course here in the United States once again this Summer, June 30th- July 4th at the Southern Institute of Faux Finishing in Brandon, MS. Visit her website at

Julie Young, our member from San Diego, CA owns JulieArt Architectural Finishes. Being in business for 10 years, she is a master craftsman and specializes in high end plaster finishes. She is currently the president of her local Sali chapter and networks with other members in her chapter who are licensed CA contractors. You can view her work at

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